Dates can be a tricky thing. Anxiety kicks during awkward moments of silence. And if you really want things to go well, you better make sure the number of brilliant things you say outweigh the bad jokes that fall flat.
This past Valentine’s Day weekend, the ladies (and one gentleman) of the burlesque troop Divas & Dolls and a quartet of female comedians went on a first date with Miami. Crush: A Night of Stand-Up and Burlesque, held Friday evening at Gramps in Wynwood, was a two-show performance filled with dirty jokes and plenty of dancing.
Co Co Le Bod, founder and leading lady of Divas & Dolls, and comic Kat Toledo led the proceedings by welcoming the crowd and introducing each performer. The space in the bar's back room was intimate, which made it all the more personal for both the audience and the entertainers.
The night began with a burlesque number as the performers sashayed to Shirley Bassey’s “Big Spender,” an ironic choice considering the price of admission was about 20 bucks — a bargain for the amount of fun crammed into the show. One of the unique characteristics of the group is the diversity of the dancers. Le Bod is exceedingly proud of this fact and even more so that they have a male dancer, Valentino Royale, who was one of the stars of the night. As the only guy onstage, he was the center of attention several times and made the most of it. Royale and fellow dancer Bibi De Bouche were over-the-top funny, smoothly parlaying their dance abilities into pantomime and physical comedy.
Although it was a show meant for lovers, nearly every skit was about the less-than-warm-and-fuzzy side of love: betrayal, heartbreak, an elaborate display of affection gone wrong, and even murder. Each bit went over well, mainly because of the confidence and the sincerity exemplified by this gang of scantily clad vaudevillian actors.
As for the standup comics, they delivered their own darkly humorous takes on not only love but also all the thorns and thumps that come with it. As varied as their dancing counterparts, the comics joked about age, family, marriage, race, sex, and other topics of the human condition. After a short while, the intimate space led to audience and performer interactions that made the show feel less like a performance and more like a group of friends drinking and shooting the shit. One of the standouts of the night was Pam Bruno, who was essentially a morbid, dirtier version of actress and comedian Estelle Getty. She was tragically hysterical and probably made a few people uncomfortable with her jokes about drugs and dead bodies, but it only increased the awesomeness for the rest of the crowd.
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There were a few minor hiccups, though. The dead air that filled the room between acts sometimes dispelled the magic. But this was the debut of Crush, and as the night wore on, everybody seemed to settle in and become more comfortable — the wrinkles adding to the charm of the experience.
At no point did Crush feel like a mere strip show. It conveyed an old-timey joy, and not just because of Fred Astaire’s “Puttin’ On the Ritz.” Yes, there were nipple pasties and bawdy jokes, but the energy in the room was so friendly that it became less about the voyeuristic nature of burlesque and more about having a blast. Plus, those comedians were damn funny.
A night out with a pretty girl who has a great sense of humor? Miami is definitely calling back.